By Tara John
October 16, 2017

The U.S. military will practice evacuating noncombatant Americans out of South Korea as tensions escalate over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

The annual drills, which will take place on Oct 23-27, aims to prepare “service members and their families to respond to a wide range of crisis management events such as noncombatant evacuation and natural or man-made disasters,” the U.S. military said in a statement Monday.

The U.S. military stressed in the statement that the exercise was a “routinely scheduled drill” and was not tied to current events.

“Although not directly tied to current geopolitical events, our forces must be ready in all areas,” General Vincent K. Brooks, commander of United States Forces Korea, said. “This training is as important to readiness as our other routine events such as tank gunnery and fighter wing exercises.”

South Korea has repeatedly warned against a military solution to North Korea’s rising belligerence, fearing that any escalation could lead to a full-blown war. But U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have been trading insults and threats over the past few months. Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea during a September speech to the United Nations, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told CNN Sunday that diplomatic efforts would continue until “the first bomb drops.”

Monday’s announcement comes as the U.S. and South Korea start a 10-day joint naval exercise in the waters on the east and west of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea sees military drills of this sort as rehearsals for invasion and its officials yet again threatened to launch missiles around the waters of Guam.

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